Monthly Archives: October 2008

Here’s a little newsflash: Republican VP pick studied Classics at Rutgers

Alas, not Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska…

..but Garret Augustus Hobart (1844-1899), Vice President of the United States under William McKinley.

Hobart, who graduated with the Rutgers College class of 1863 at the precocious age of nineteen, served as Vice President from 4 March 1897 until his untimely death in office on 21 November 1899.

Born in Long Branch NJ , Garret A. Hobart grew up in Marlboro and attended Rutgers from 1860 through 1863, where he sailed through the college’s rigorous Classical Curriculum.

[Full disclosure: from the day the College opened its doors in 1771 until 1864, Classics was the only major course of study available at Rutgers.]

Old Queens (with students) as it stood in 1862

Hobart later based himself in Paterson NJ, where he was admitted to the bar—and through his business interests amassed a large fortune. He soon rose to the NJ State Assembly (1872-76), the State Senate (1876-82), and a position of prominence in the Republican National Committee (1884-96) before McKinley tapped him as his running mate in the epochal 1896 presidential election. Garret Hobart then made himself into one of the most powerful vice presidents in American history before his death at age 55 due to heart failure. This was the closest a native, life-long Jerseyan has ever come to the highest office in the land.

Check out what the Classics Curriculum looked like when Hobart entered Rutgers in 1860…

After the jump we turn to Robert Percival Porter, The Life of William McKinley, Soldier, Lawyer, Statesman (1896) for a mildly interesting summation of Garret A. Hobart’s early years… Continue reading

Fall 08 update: RU Classics hosts talks by Schorn, Fornara, Hardie, Yadin

Events are coming fast and furious at Rutgers Classics over the next three weeks, with four public lectures—none of which should be missed.

The fame of Virgil: Georg. 1.145f on a 5 cent token from St. Thomas (1880s)

Here’s the roster:

Thursday 23 October 5 PM. Stefan Schorn (Universities of Würzburg and Leuven) “On Eating Meat and Human Sacrifice: Greek Anthropology in the Fourth Century B.C.” Ruth Adams Building 003 / Douglass Campus. Sponsored by the Classics Graduate Association.

Thursday 30 October 5 PM. Charles Fornara (Brown University) “Inscription IG I^3 66: The Aftermath of the Mytilenian Debate”, Graduate Student Lounge, 126 College Avenue / College Avenue Campus. Sponsored by the Classics Graduate Association.

Thursday 6 November 5 PM. Philip Hardie (Trinity College, Cambridge University), “Virgil’s Fama and the Lucretian Sublime”, Ruth Adams Building 003 / Douglass Campus.

Monday 17 November 1 PM. Azzan Yadin (Department of Jewish Studies, Rutgers University), “Parmenides, Democritus, and the Political Cosmology of the Timaeus”. Ruth Adams Building 003 / Douglass Campus.

More obviously to come. For superior directions to the Ruth Adams Building, see the Rutgers Classics Webpage > Contact Us.

This seems like a good occasion to give props to RU Classics’ partners in the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, which collectively field a massive number of events each term.

Check out the Classics events hosted by our neighbors at Princeton, Columbia and its Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, CUNY Graduate Center Classics, Fordham, and NYU, its Center for Ancient Studies, and its Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Oh, and lots of stuff in Philadelphia at Penn, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Haverford and elsewhere, readily viewed on the great PLACET events website.

Center of Rutgers’ Douglass Campus, then (ca. 1945, when it was still the New Jersey College for Women) and now. “Recitation Hall” at lower center of old map is our Ruth Adams Building.

NYT: Latin perhaps just behind Spanish and French in schools, relevant to Election ’08

OK, maybe world markets are collapsing. But the New York Times had one piece of good news to report this past week, namely that Latin enrollments in the secondary schools are through the roof nationally. See the article (7 October 2008) here.

Reverse of denarius (63 BC) of L. Cassius Longinus, celebrating the secret ballot

Lots of great quotes in the NYT article, and here’s just one: “Marty Abbott, education director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said it was possible that Latin would edge out German as the third most popular language taught in schools, behind Spanish and French, when the preliminary results of an enrollment survey are released next year. In the last survey, covering enrollment in 2000, Latin placed fourth.”

At one point in the week of 6 October, the NYT website noted this article on Latin as the second most emailed of all its content.

For a reaction, who better at Rutgers to ask than Ryan Barton ’09?

Ryan has won the Cornelison Prize—a Latin prize awarded by competitive exam to the best Classics student enrolled in Rutgers’ Douglass College—an astounding three years in a row, starting as a freshman.

“I was very excited to hear see this in print finally,”, Ryan told the Rutgers Classics blog, “since I’ve been hearing about this a lot lately. It makes me feel proud to know that my passion is being rekindled and shared by younger children. Obviously it creates a bigger job market for someone with a Latin degree, but it’s more exciting for me because Latin and classics are so incredibly important and relevant to modern learning and have been underappreciated for the last 30 some years.”

Yes, the NYT article had a lot to say about that. “Now with more interest being generated,” concludes Ryan, “I’m on the cusp of what I hope will be a renaissance of sorts for Latin, which is especially titillating as I intend to teach Latin after I graduate.”

And then, lo and behold, NYT Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd on 12 October decides to offer more than half of her latest 800 word essay on the ’08 electoral campaign in Latin, and for help in translation, calls on Gary Farney, associate professor of History at Rutgers-Newark. Gary is the 2006 winner of the University College-Newark Alumni Association Henry J. Browne Teaching Excellence Award, and a member of the New Brunswick Classics graduate faculty.

Gary came to Rutgers-Newark as a superbly trained classicist and ancient historian: Indiana B.A., Bryn Mawr M.A. and Ph.D., study at the American Numismatic Society seminar, and winner of both the Rome Prize in Ancient Studies to the American Academy in Rome and the Broneer Prize to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

In 2007 Gary Farney published an unusually stimulating new book with Cambridge University Press on aspects of Italian ethnicity in the Roman Republic, Ethnic Identity and Aristocratic Competition in Republican Rome.

For the past five years Gary has been the Director of the enormously successful Rutgers Summer in Greece Program. And this December Gary takes over as the Director of the Ancient and Medieval Civilizations major at Newark.

It’s a delight and a privilege to count Gary as one of the members of the Rutgers Classics community.

Got Latin? The Ruth Adams Building—once known as Recitation Hall—houses Rutgers Classics on the New Brunswick Douglass Campus. From the amazing collection of Rutgersiana at

Rutgers makes the scene at CAAS 2008 Annual Meeting @ Princeton

When the Classical Association of the Atlantic States meets 9-11 October in Princeton’s Westin Hotel for its 2008 Annual Meeting, Rutgers will be fully in the house.

Postcard ‘Jersey’ features Princeton in the R and Rutgers in the final E

Two highlights for Rutgers Classics on the conference program:

Jason Albaugh, a Rutgers Classics MAT candidate and teacher at Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (NJ), presents on West African mythology and much more besides with his talk “Anansi Tigridem Ligavit: Using Folk Tales in the Latin Classroom”.

And Jeffrey Ulrich, Rutgers ’08 and now a Math teacher at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, speaks on “The Polymorphous Herodotus: An Interpretation of Nomos in the Histories”.

This talk is based on Ulrich’s senior thesis, directed by Emily M. Allen. “I’m presenting on cultural relativism as displayed in Herodotus,” explains Jeff. “My argument focuses on the Darius experiment in Histories 3.38 and the greater function of nomos in the surrounding narratives.” The conclusion? “That Herodotus cannot resist making moral and ethical distinctions that preclude him from being a relativist.”

Above: Jason Albaugh, Persian Daric ca. 400-350 BC, Jeffrey Ulrich

There’s more after the jump… Continue reading

Paul Robeson RC’19: athlete, actor, singer, writer, activist…and Rutgers Classics scholar

Looking back on the life and career of Walter Seward RC’17 (1896-2008)—as we did in our last weblog—it’s hard not to spare a thought also for his younger contemporary at Rutgers, the larger-than-life figure of Paul LeRoy Robeson RC’19 (1898-1976).

Paul Robeson dormed for all four of his Rutgers years at Winants Hall

Robeson, a native of Princeton NJ, studied Latin for four years at Somerville (NJ) High School before matriculating at Rutgers. He was just the third African American ever to attend the College, and the only black student enrolled during his time on the Banks—which gave rise to some petty snubs and ugly confrontations.

(Princeton would not have been an option for the young Robeson: the first African-American student to receive an undergraduate degree from his home town university would be John Lee Howard, Class of 1947.)

Many of the details of Robeson’s achievements at Rutgers are exquisitely well-documented. Those include his junior year election to Phi Beta Kappa, and senior year induction to the Cap and Skull honor society. Also the breathtaking fact that at Rutgers he earned a total of fifteen varsity letters in baseball, basketball, track and field—and of course football, a sport in which he was twice named a first-team All-American.

[Listen here to the Peerless Quartet‘s 1915 version of “On the Banks of the Old Raritan“, recorded for Columbia the year Robeson matriculated at Rutgers.]

Yet Robeson’s biographers don’t quite properly represent the facts of his enrollment in the demanding Classical Curriculum at Rutgers. Even otherwise authoritative sources on African Americans in Classics routinely seem to have missed it.

Let”s start with Robeson himself, in his 1958 autobiography, Here I Stand. He explains that his father, William Drew Robeson (who had studied classical languages as part of his Divinity degree at Lincoln University) had insisted on the importance for African Americans of studying “Latin, Greek, philosophy, history, literature”. Robeson explains, “So for me in high school there would be four years of Latin and then in college four more years of Latin and Greek”.

A glance at Paul Robeson’s undergraduate transcript yields a slightly different picture than his autobiography, written forty years after the fact. For Robeson, freshman year (1915-1916) it was introductory Greek in the fall plus Latin; in the spring intermediate Greek and Latin. Robeson in his sophomore (1916-1917) and junior (1917-1918) years continued with Greek, but not his Latin coursework. As a senior Robeson took no classical languages, but a year-long course in Roman law. A natural linguist, Robeson also studied German as a sophomore and Spanish as a senior. Continue reading